You might think rickets -- the bone-softening disease caused by vitamin D deficiency -- is a thing of the past. But vitamin D deficiency is not.
Vitamin D deficiency is more widespread than commonly thought, and as a result the American Academy of Pediatrics will announce today that it is doubling the amount of vitamin D it recommends for infants, children, and adolescents to 400 IU a day, according to The Boston Globe.
Dr. Catherine Gordon, director of the bone health program at Children's Hospital Boston, is quoted in the article: "I don't know of another vitamin that has effects on multiple tissues like vitamin D. As pediatricians, we're still doing research on health outcomes, (and) the relation between vitamin D deficiency during childhood or adolescence and outcomes later in life like osteoporosis, cancer risk, and risk of developing multiple sclerosis. But there are compelling data in adults suggesting an association."
While the Academy still recommends breast milk as the overall best nutrition source for infants, the article says breast-fed infants are especially at risk for insufficient vitamin D. (Nutrition is only one reason breastfeeding is good for mom's and baby's health.) In fact, in a study conducted earlier this year, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston found "suboptimal" levels of vitamin D in 40 percent of 380 otherwise healthy infants and toddlers. Breast-fed infants were up to 10 times more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than their formula-fed counterparts, according to the article.
The article says that historically our main source of vitamin D has been sunlight, but our increased use of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and our lack of time outdoors has contributed to the problem. (The Academy is not recommending, however, tanning beds or sunbathing since it's difficult to measure safe exposure.)
And food sources of the vitamin are limited; they include infant formula, fortified milk, fish, fortified breakfast cereals, fortified orange juice and cod liver oil (see a more complete list of foods containing vitamin D.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplements in liquid or tablet form for:
(Vitamin D supplements are something to watch, since studies have recently questioned the benefits of Vitamin C or E supplements, and because the FDA has identified lead in many supplements.)
Vitamin D still comes naturally from the sun; doctors often recommend 20 minutes of direct sunlight to the face and arms as a good method for getting a daily dose; then, it's time to apply a natural sunscreen and continue your day outdoors. So try one of these 30 ways to get your kid to play outside, or one of these fun 22 citizen science projects for kids and adults.
For more information on vitamin D deficiency, you can go to the American Academy of Pediatrics website.
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